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Pune, a growing western Indian metropolis, has a rich history, a legacy of culture, and a growing population. It is known by two names: Pune and Poona, and the narrative behind this nomenclatural shift is an enthralling journey that tells much about India’s colonial past and quest for freedom. In this article, we will look into the history of these names, why the British chose the name Poona, and how the city returned to its former name, Pune. Let us continue on this historical journey to discover the hidden facets of Pune city.

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The Colonial Influence on Pune’s Name

The issue at hand is the dual nomenclature of Pune, with some people using the British colonial name ‘Poona’ and others preferring the Marathi name ‘Pune.’ This discrepancy in naming has been a matter of discussion and debate, particularly in northern India. It raises questions about the colonial legacy and its impact on India’s cultural identity.

  • The Historical Origins of Pune

To comprehend the significance of this naming issue, it’s crucial to trace its historical roots. Pune, originally known as ‘punawadi,’ had a rich history that dates back centuries before British colonialism. It was the land of Marathas, and the city’s evolution began with the presence of Maratha rulers.

  • The Maratha Connection: Shahaji Raje and Punawadi

Pune’s journey towards becoming a significant city can be traced to Shahaji Raje, the father of Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Shahaji Raje played a pivotal role in Pune’s history by establishing ‘punawadi’ as a strategic location for governance and administration.


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old memories with new ones. Pune city was not always what it is today, a metropolitan city. It has a vibrant past

Unravelling Pune’s Historical Names

To uncover the historical names of Pune and the reasons behind the Britishers’ choice of ‘Poona,’ we need to delve deeper into the city’s history and the Maratha influence.

  • From Punawadi to Punya Nagari

In the time of the Peshwas, Pune acquired the name ‘Punya Nagari,’ which translates to ‘the city of good deeds.’ This name encapsulated the values and ethos of the city during Maratha rule.

  • The British Colonial Era: Poona Emerges

During the British colonial period, the city transformed its nomenclature. The Britishers, with their pronunciation constraints, changed the city’s name to ‘Poona.’ This shift represented a colonial influence that would have a lasting impact on Pune’s identity.

Pune’s Journey through Colonial Rule

Understanding the city’s history during British colonial rule is essential to appreciate the dynamics of the name change from Pune to Poona.

  • British Colonialism and Pune’s Transformation

The British colonization of India, which lasted for nearly two centuries, significantly influenced various aspects of Indian society, including language and nomenclature. The name ‘Poona‘ was a result of this colonial impact.

  • Pronunciation Challenges

The change from ‘Pune’ to ‘Poona’ was primarily due to pronunciation issues. The British tongue struggled with the intricacies of Indian languages, and as a result, they modified the name to suit their linguistic comfort.

The Return to Pune

After India gained independence in 1947, there was a gradual shift back to the original name, Pune, reflecting a resurgence of cultural identity and a break from colonial influence.

  • The Post-Independence Era

With the dawn of independence, a strong urge to revive India’s cultural heritage emerged. This was reflected in the decision to revert to Pune, its original name, and break free from the colonial nomenclature.

  • A Name Reclaimed

The renaming of the city as Pune was a symbolic step towards reclaiming its historical identity. It marked the beginning of a new era, one in which the city proudly embraced its Maratha roots.

Bhaji Mandai in Market Yard,Pune, mahatma phule bhaji mandai pune
bhaji mandai Pune: In the early years of British rule, an open-air vegetable market used to be held outside the Shaniwar Wada.

The Significance of Naming.

The name of a city carries deep cultural and historical significance. The choice between ‘Pune’ and ‘Poona’ is not just a matter of pronunciation; it is a reflection of the struggle for cultural identity and the impact of colonialism.

  • Embracing Cultural Identity.

The decision to call the city Pune represents a conscious choice to embrace its cultural identity and heritage. It’s a way of asserting that the city’s history and significance go beyond the colonial legacy.

  • Cultural Pride.

Using the name ‘Pune’ is a sign of cultural pride and a statement that the city’s history, values, and traditions are deeply rooted in Maratha heritage.

Pune: A City with a Storied Past

The city known as Pune today has a storied past, with its name evolving from ‘punawadi’ to ‘Punya Nagari’ before being temporarily altered to ‘Poona’ during British colonial rule. Post-independence, the city reverted to its original name, ‘Pune,’ signifying a return to its cultural roots and a break from colonial influence.

The nomenclature of Pune is not just a matter of semantics but a reflection of a city’s journey through time, a testament to its historical significance, and a symbol of its people’s determination to preserve their cultural heritage. Pune, or Poona, is a city with a name that speaks volumes about the resilience and cultural pride of its residents.

Ā Also read about,Ā  Why The Peshwas Chose the Pune Location for the Shaniwar Wada Fort.

By Shaikh Salman

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